George Sand’s Indiana presents the story of a woman fighting against the oppressions of her society, a woman challenging, as Sand called it in her 1842 preface to the novel, “the false relationship between the sexes.” Through this theme, Sand explores a spectrum of issues touched by this struggle—individualism, duty, honor, love, jealousy, fear, falsehood, and truth.
When the public was first introduced to the novel in 1832, it provoked controversy over Sand’s criticism of the strictures of traditional roles of men and women, particularly those of husbands and wives. That controversy earned Sand instant fame. She was praised and condemned for her commentary on society’s injustices. Some called the novel treacherous for threatening the stability of traditional institutions; others marveled at its capacity to dramatize the struggle and eventual triumph of a single soul fighting against the arbitrary whims of an oppressive husband and the glaring hypocrisies of an unjust society. Sand herself noted that she, as “a young author—a mere neophyte in the world of social ideas, one whose literary and philosophical equipment consisted of a little imagination, a bit of courage, and a love of truth—was thus endowed with a weighty role.”
Sand’s own personal rebellions—her decision to flee her husband to live a bohemian life in Paris, her preference for men’s clothing, her active participation in renowned literary circles, and her liberated sexual attitudes—became as noted as her novels. She was an active member of the literary community in Paris and a close friend to such influential figures as Honoré de Balzac, Alfred de Musset, Eugene Delacroix, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, and Gustave Flaubert.
Indiana is a quest for the happiness that is possible only through liberty and equality, an assertion of the primacy of the individual over the demands of society. Contrary to the novel’s crusade for equality among the sexes, however, is its presentation of women; Sand’s depiction of women as nurturers bound by a duty to love and to serve is inconsistent with the ideal of true independence. Her pleas for equality are irreconcilable with her views on the course a woman’s life must necessarily take. Sand asserts that women have a fundamentally different temperament than men and that this feminine temperament predisposes them to certain roles. The capacity for boundless love and devotion are, to...
(The entire section is 1008 words.)